The Third India-Africa Forum Summit, which was held in New Delhi from 26 – 29 October, saw delegates of 54 African nations, including heads of state and government of around 40 countries, gather in New Delhi for what has been described as the most representative and biggest ever overseas gathering of African leaders.
In his inaugural speech at the Summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the gathering was not just a meeting between India and Africa, “Today, the dreams of one-third of humanity have come together under one roof… Today, the heartbeats of 1.25 billion Indians and 1.25 billion Africans are in rhythm.”
Underlining the economic growth which has gained momentum in India and across Africa, the prime minister went on to add, “India and Africa are the two bright spots of hope and opportunity in the global economy. “ With two-thirds of the population of India and Africa currently under the age of 35, the PM added, “If the future belongs to the youth, then this century is ours to shape and build.”
Hailing the historical ties that bind India and Africa, and the convergence in viewpoints on many international issues, the prime-minister said that India and African need to speak with one voice on international affairs. He urged India and Africa to speak in one voice on global affairs, including on reforms to the United Nations.
"Our institutions cannot be representative of our world, if they do not give voice to Africa, with more than a quarter of UN members, or the world's largest democracy with one-sixth of humanity... That is why India and Africa must speak in one voice for reforms of the United Nations, including its Security Council” said the prime minister.
On the issue of climate change and the upcoming climate conference in Paris, the prime minister said: “No one has done less to contribute to global warming than India and Africa. No one can be more conscious of climate change than Indians and Africans. We are each making enormous efforts with our modest resources to combat climate change.”
He went on to add, “But, it is also true that the excess of few cannot become the burden of many. So, when the world meets in Paris in December, we look to see a comprehensive and concrete outcome that is based on the well-established principles in the UN Convention on Climate Change. We will all do our part for it.”
In remarks at the inauguration of the summit, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, “India has always stood for and with Africa. Ours is a relationship forged in the crucible of the shared struggle against imperialism, colonialism, racial discrimination and apartheid. That era is now behind us, but the solidarity engendered by that shared struggle continues. “
She added, “Our modern partnership rests on the pillars of economic growth, development and empowerment and is a consolidation of our engagement at various levels — bilateral, regional and pan African. The longstanding and multifaceted India-Africa development partnership is based on the principles of equality, friendship and solidarity. It represents one of the finest examples of South-South cooperation.
Attended by about 1,000 delegates, the four-day summit is seen by analysts as India's effort to woo Africa, which has often been described as the ‘continent of the 21st century’. In recent years, New Delhi has shown its commitment to economic development of Africa and has leveraged its traditional friendly relations with African nations to boost trade and investment on the continent.
India's current trade with Africa is around $75 billion and in recent years it has committed nearly $10 billion in concessional credit and grants to various nations in Africa. India has also implemented a total of 137 projects in 41 African countries, in addition to creating 100 capacity building institutions, developing infrastructure, public transport, clean energy, irrigation, agriculture and manufacturing capacity across Africa. At the summit, Prime Minister Modi also announced $10 billion in soft loans and $600 million in grants for African countries, in addition to offering 50,000 new scholarships for African students to study in India, over the next five years.
With over 400 business delegates from Africa, in addition to all major Indian chambers of commerce attending the conference, the summit is an ideal venue to enhance and expand trade ties. Among the main agendas at the summit are plans aimed at enhancing trade and investment in the oil and gas sector, increasing maritime cooperation and lifting the overall engagement to a new high.
Appreciating the strong measures taken by the African countries that are radically improving healthcare, education and agriculture, and promising India’s help in developing the agriculture sector, the prime minister said: “Africa has 60 percent of the world's arable land reserves and just 10 percent of the global output. A spurt in Africa's agriculture sector can drive the continent's march to prosperity and also support global food security.”
On the sidelines of the summit, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) launched a publication that acknowledged the shared understanding between India and Africa on a number of sectorial issues. The publication showcases the width and breadth of bilateral investment potential and underscores the need for deeper engagement between India and Africa in order to achieve common prosperity and progress.
Among the issues highlighted in the report was the value of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises and their imperative for industrialization; the need for a robust financial sector; regional integration and cooperation and as well as the importance of regulatory frameworks to spawn new ways of doing business. In the area of science and technology, the report noted that the two entities share the common objective of enhancing collaborative research, strengthening science and technology institutions and cashing in on the growth of a south-south dynamic information economy.